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Bullying:
“My child is being teased!”

Dear Annie,

My son is a first grader. He was born with a small mole on his chin. Kids on the bus tease him constantly about it and say ugly things to him. I know children can be cruel and I know that unfortunately teasing is a part of life, but it is starting to make him extremely self conscious to the point of him not wanting to go to school. He's also starting to become insecure about himself. I was teased badly as a child myself and my parents did nothing. I want to give him effective advice so he can stick up for himself, but I'm not quite sure what to say!

Help!

Helpless Mom

Dear Helpless Mom,

I'm so sorry that your little boy is suffering. Nothing makes me angrier than children being cruel to one another.

Children are cruel because the adults in their lives have taught them that it's acceptable behavior. Or they've not bothered to teach the kids that teasing and harassment are forms of violence and are NEVER ok.

Where are the teachers at your son's school while this is going on? Where is the bus driver? Where is the principal who runs the whole show? Is it possible that none of these adults have ever talked to the teasers and set them straight about their cruel and insensitive behavior?

Where are the parents of these children??

Any adult who is aware that their child, their student or their school bus passenger is teasing another child has the responsibility to step in immediately and stop the behavior. To do less is to fail to teach that child respectful behavior and to fail at protecting the rights of the victim.

If by some stretch of the imagination, the adults in charge at school are as yet unaware of this situation, then it's your responsibility to bring it to their attention immediately.

Your son needs you to be his advocate.

Call the school today and set up a meeting with the principal and make sure he/she doesn't blow you off with "Kids will be kids." Tell the principal what you told me. That your son is being victimized and you're already seeing the emotional fallout. Remind the principal that every student has the right to be physically and emotionally safe at school (and that includes the ride on the bus). It is the school's legal obligation to make sure they enforce a "no teasing" rule and back it up with consequences. If they are unwilling to take this seriously, then threaten them with legal action.

As for helping your son... Getting the school to do its job will help him. Letting him know that you are working with the school to change this situation will help. So will letting him know that he has done nothing to cause this. Let him know that he is lovable. Hopefully he has a few good friends, yes? Set up times outside of school for him to spend with them. That will help build his self-image as a person who people like.

It might also be helpful to make an appointment for him to talk with a child psychologist.

I hope this helps.

Please let me know what happens.

In friendship,

Annie

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